Timing is communication
This is one of many shots I take on the ice beach. My formula is basic, but effective. I find an attractive piece of glacier ice. By attractive, I mean interesting textures and shape. Something that will look nice on a LARGE print (this is the part you are missing out by only seeing these online). I look for ice that is being hit by every 4th or 5th wave.
Once, I have the nice ice, I try to blend it into the best part of the sky. This involves getting low to bring the ice and the sky together. But on this shot I was not too low to obscure the middle ground. The middle ground is the wet sand and ice beyond the foreground feature. My camera is waist height but still close to the foreground feature.
Timing is the main point of this article. You can see from the photo taken just a few seconds later has 60% less drama. The image still has something, there was a swell of ocean and the sand was wet and there are feint trails. But it has nowhere near the potential of the featured image.
Timing is communication
This idea came to me after waiting a long time to be paid for some photography work by Iceland travel company Snæland Grímsson. I understood the timing of the payment, the fact that it was very slow as a communication of disrespect from a larger company to a smaller company. For me this temporal aspect of communication is very clear, there is no questioning the message. In Iceland, it only takes a few minutes to pay someone. Maybe some of you have felt the communication of “low value” when payment has been slow to come from a wealthier source?
Comedians will tell you how important timing is in communication and musicians swear by timing – if you don’t have it, you can’t play with us. Unless it is grunge.
In photography we all know how different shutter speeds will have effects on moving objects such as waterfalls, waves and traffic. Timing is important to achieve the desired effects. By considering your shutter speed, you are opening a world of creativity. You start to view movement differently and think of things that would look good with a really fast shutter or a really slow shutter. Then the world starts looking different on the back of your camera… you are communicating… you are presenting a different reality.
Ansel Adams said that Great Photography is all about standing in the right place, but I will add to that … at the right time.
Well here I am at the right place at the right time, but lets have a look at the difference a few seconds make in terms of communication.
Lines The featured image has stronger lines. This is the most immediate communication advantage. It draws the eye, grabs attention, underlines. The communication of movement is much stronger because of the white trails.
Colour How important is colour for communication? Just see how almost all animals use colour for sexual attraction or fighting. In many ways this is the epitome of visual art, ‘colour’ has the biggest emotional charge. Because of the ‘timing’, the featured images has more emtional impact because there is a better presentation of the available colours. Simply because they were reflected in the wetter sand.
Composition The composition is the same in both shots. I hope you can see that even at the right place at the right time with a good composition and settings, it is the timing that enhances the communication of the scene.
A nice technique if you are this situation of trying to catch trails of receding waves is to copy the wave action with your cloth. For example, as the wave comes in, move the cloth lower and raise the cloth as the wave recedes. This way you prevent big white blobs of surf that not always, but often send my shots to the trash.
But, the best trails come from 1 or 2 second exposures. I spotted the potential of a trails coming from that beautiful ice shape. In my shot, you will see how I have jacked the iso to give me a shorter exposure. 2.5 seconds is not enough time to play around as described above. This was a karate chop – quickly down over the whole scene and then slowly up with the receding wave.